Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On CK1, Young Lust, and Adult Love


I grew up in a religious household and [I was forced to attend] youth group retreats that focused on dating and ‘how to find God’s perfect mate for you.’

Some of these events included drawing on a Barbie doll with a Sharpie to display what areas of your body were permissible to touch when dating (sex was out of the question) and scare tactics by showing graphic pictures of what STDs looked like. We also were instructed to make lists of our non-negotiables for a future spouse.

We were 13-years old. We barely knew how to maintain our own hygiene.

We didn’t know what we wanted in a dating situation other than hoping they were really cute, a good kisser, and liked the same music we did. Yet list-making we did, being brainwashed into believing there was one ideal person that would be everything we wanted them to be before ever meeting them.

My list of an ideal mate included such weighty items as “tall, handsome, funny, loves God, wears CK1.”

Some of my friends made their lists and some of them met ‘their person’ and got married young. It didn’t work that way for a lot of us, though.

While I believe that my youth group leaders had admirable, good intentions, reality is that fear tactics and lists of ideals harmed my ability to learn about what actually mattered in a relationship. It didn’t train me for life within a relationship.

Or marriage at 24 years old. Or divorce at 27 years old.

It didn’t teach me about how to set healthy boundaries.
Or how to stand up for myself when something felt uncomfortable or hurtful.
Or how to distinguish what ‘red flags’ are and how to talk about them.
Or how to break up with someone in a dignified manner.
Or how to like myself first, the other person second.

Nothing about character. Just a list of check boxes that indicated if you were ‘staying pure’ or not.

At age 29, I tried something different. I threw out the old mentality and I committed to a new way of doing relationships.

I made a list of all the things that hadn’t worked and things I did not want. I did something scary – I trusted the process. I didn’t try to control the variables.

Eventually, Zachary came along.
Now he’s my dude. My partner. My bestie.

While he doesn’t wear CK1, he’s got a slew of amazing qualities, outstanding character, and he is one of the most likable people I know. He’s not someone I would have ever considered dating previously, though, because he didn’t match The List of ideals I made at 13-years dumb.

Now I see that my relationship has to feel and be holistically right, not a list of checked boxes. I’ve looked great on paper before and been miserable at home. That’s not a sacrifice I will never make again. And this resolve has led me to seeing the importance of living congruently. My insides match my outsides. My relationship matches that, too. 

When You Realize Your Heroes Are People Too

I longed to be like Pam. Her crimped blonde perm,  long, red acrylic nails, and bright red-salmon colored lipstick. Hey, it was the 80’s and she was totally ‘80’s Hot.’

I would go through Pam’s purse, taking out every item and asking her what it was for. She would then proceed to paint my nails and let me wear her lipstick even though my parents didn’t allow me to at the ripe old age of six. Pam was my hero.

She spent a lot of time at our house; over for dinners several nights a week, would babysit me and my sisters, and go to family events with us. Pam was over one afternoon and I walked outside to play jump rope (which is what we did before Facebook and Netflix). Little did my child-heart know that moment would bring my hero crashing to the ground. Pam was outside smoking.

My heart was crushed. I cried and ran inside, so angry. I swore I would never smoke and I would never trust Pam again.

Ironically, I picked up a smoking habit when I was 17 years old, but that’s a story for another day. The point is that I couldn’t handle my ideal image of my hero being tarnished by her humanity.

I think this is true of many of us. It's why we get into an uproar when celebrities or public figures show failure. If we were actually consciously aware of every person being human and full of error, we wouldn’t be surprised when humanity shows. It would be expected, in fact.

I spent a lot of time believing that my heroes couldn’t be actually human. I needed them to be on a pedestal so I could feel secure being connected to them. Even at six years old.

Now in my early 30’s I’m seeing that people are just that... people. They will be late to appointments. We will not like all of the same books. They will think I’m ridiculous for some thing I do with my life. I will believe them stupid for believing some thing they do. This is humanity.

I sat across from one of my long time mentors tonight who I have not seen in a while. She’s invested in my leadership training beyond what anyone has before, and people pay her a lot of money to do that. She’s given me free education and real time feedback on my bullshit. I love this woman.

It was interesting, though. We actually disagree on many topics or beliefs, yet we are able to hug it out and respect what the other thinks. I could not have done that a decade ago. I was able to stand back, admire her, and graciously state what I thought. There was no conflict. Just friends holding space for each other.

So maybe I’ve gotten to the place where disagreeing or holding room for someone to be human and different is expected. It’s not threatening. It’s comfortable. After all, my heroes are people, too. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

"There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do."

-- Freya Stark

Friday, September 12, 2014

You Can’t Take Someone Where You Aren’t Willing To Go

His big, tear-filled eyes looked across the table at her. I thought my heart would explode from the cuteness.

Mom, I don’t want to eat my broccoli. Please don’t make me.”
Mom replies, “Honey, I told you if you want ice cream for dessert you have to eat all of your vegetables.”
But you didn’t eat any dinner and only had ice cream.”

The kid had a point. We laughed from the irony.

I see a bigger lesson for myself in this, and not just about broccoli or ice cream. For most of my life I think I gave people advice I wasn’t willing to take or I challenged them to do things I had never had the balls to do.

I don’t think I’m alone in that, I think it’s quite normal.

I wonder how many times we make judgments about what someone should do or say, or offer advice we have no experience in. Don’t we tend to believe we are an expert when it comes to someone else’s life? On the other hand, how often do we get challenged to do something the other person has never done?

How many books do we read where we question if the author actually lives what they write?
How many teachers have we had who teach something they’ve never lived?
How many speakers do we see where they sound good but somewhere in our gut we smell bullshit?
How many parents tell their kids something just to make them feel better or avoid conflict?

Brene Brown turned this idea on its head for me, truly. That woman is one of the strongest people I can imagine, not because she’s super badass and puts people in their place but because she actually lives what she preaches: vulnerability. I see it in her work, I hear it in her podcasts and talks, and her examples continuously expose those parts of myself I try so hard to cover.

Simply put, her biggest gift is that she gives permission to be messy.

See, the overarching problem with us is not that we judge others but that we don’t share openly and without fear, which then teaches others to shield themselves and the cycle perpetuates itself.  If we had no fear of what people thought, we’d all be living life very different. Social media wouldn’t be a competition, every conversation would be honest and exposing, and we would hold fewer resentments because the air between people would be clearer.

We muddy things by hiding behind our personalities and resisting vulnerability. It's hard. 
Vulnerability is a practice, a lifestyle... an art.

I gave a talk at a conference last summer titled “The Art of Vulnerability." As the Universe so humorously does, I had a lesson in vulnerability before speaking it. I battled through writing the talk because the desire to appear strong, collected, and together was significant. I didn’t want to show the soft parts of me. I wanted to sound competent and articulate...  I wanted to ‘wow’ the audience. Well, when the topic is vulnerability I think we have to throw all other layers of ourselves aside and be uncomfortable in our truth. And that’s just what I did.

I shared about my life’s journey, my brokenness, my wholeness, and a bunch of honest stories that related to the idea that we cannot take someone where we aren’t willing to go. Wouldn’t you know that a hundred people came up to me after the talk to ask about more conversation about vulnerable living?

I am by no means an expert in this, but I spread some goodness there. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Relate this to work, school, business, leadership, or relationships. You have no foundation for an experience you’ve never had. Start experimenting and growing and inviting others for the ride. And eat your vegetables. I do.

On Safe Spaces

I have always been a believer that spaces and environments affect people and vice verse. It turns out that whole idea is an actual, real thing, which must mean I’m very smart. Environmental psychology studies the interplay and affect of individuals and their surroundings.

Wikipedia describes environmental psychology as “encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments.”

My hypervigilant, obsessive nature of observing my surroundings started soon after a significant childhood trauma, which makes a lot of sense. Trauma creates deep, unnatural grooves in our brain that form our personalities and mode of operation over time.

I became a young expert at knowing where every article I owned was placed and if it had been moved, I was keenly aware of how physically close people were to me and where the nearest exit door was located, and I attempted to control every aspect of my environment as a way to self-soothe.  I wasn’t protected from harm as a little girl and from that point on I have sought to protect myself in my environment on physical and metaphysical levels.

I don’t see this as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Reality is that this has served me well in a lot of ways. For example, I’ve been complimented on the arrangement, color scheme, and decorative nature of my home for years and years. People consistently comment that they feel safe or relaxed in my living space. I’ve created a safe haven for myself and that translates to others.

In my work as a producer, I get to create live events that incorporate the whole audience/attendee experience – a sensory exploration. What do they see, touch, taste, hear, feel? That’s a niche that I don’t know of many other producers of my type playing in. It sets me apart.

As an adjunct professor of public speaking and communication theory, I get to create a classroom energy conducive for multi-level learning. As an organization coach, I get to assess and rearrange ideas and people-energy for maximum productivity and effectiveness.

Perhaps you could call me an Energy Specialist. Only no one would know what that means.

Whatever the case, I’ve done enough inner healing and work to release fear that has been associated with controlling spaces in the past. Now I get to create spaces that are freeing, peace-filled, light, and calming because that’s me.

One of my projects last year was redecorating my office. This was particularly important for several reasons:
1.     I spend more time in my office than my own bed. Sad.
2.     I have a lot of hard conversations in my work and I wanted an environment that supported a higher, positive nature.
3.     If I didn’t spend the budget money I would have lost it when the new fiscal year started.  

So here is one example, one snap shot of my work life that embodies the idea of safe spaces. Other than the terribly designed chair on the bottom left (that I couldn’t get rid of), I think I did okay. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Tiny Buddha

This week marks my premiere on Tiny Buddha, a lovely and widespread online publication that strives to bring peace, calm, and practical personal stories to those who seek a holistic life. My beloved has written for Tiny Buddha a couple of times and raved about working with the founder and editor in chief, Lori. 

It's true, she is a doll. And one of the easiest people I've ever worked with in the writing world.

Thank you to all who have continued to encourage my writing and sharing my story.

You can read my first article with Tiny Buddha here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why I Buy Myself Flowers & Wine

Before you go jumping to all sorts of conclusions, no. The subject of this post is not a passive-aggressive shot at my partner. (He buys me both often thankyouverymuch.) This is about ME celebrating ME.

A girlfriend of mine sent me a video yesterday of a business coach who expressed something really powerful: 

“Celebrate the effort, not the outcome.”


The version of myself a few years ago would have said to save the celebrating for a signed contract with several zeros after the $ sign or an Academy Award. The steps along the way were not meant to be appreciated. What have they given me? Not a paycheck, that’s for sure. In fact, some networking and professional presentations have felt like a complete waste of my energy and time.

But let’s remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. (I know, I hate those adages but this one is just too on point.) 

We typically don’t get the big wins on the first try. That’s why the word “anomaly” is in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible just unlikely. It all matters, though. It plays a role for us in our leadership journey, as cheesy as it sounds, and we can choose to embrace it or spite it.

Everything inside of me has wanted to ignore the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into certain projects or professional relationships. Fact of the matter is that I have given part of myself to all of that, though. It’s all a part of me.

Have I learned? Abundantly.
Have I grown? Absolutely.
Will I make the same mistake twice? Not if I can help it.

So, today I had a small win. I landed an opportunity that I created for myself over time with a company whose staff I adore and whose vision believe in. I pitched myself to them for a big project, they wanted something less. I agreed on terms that worked for me. 

Immediately upon leaving our meeting I stop by the store and purchased myself a bouquet of brightly colored wildflowers and my favorite wine, because even though it was (arguably) a “small” win, it’s still a win.

Celebrating our wins, no matter the size, primes us for the next opportunity and leads us to the next thing. We didn’t get there overnight. We worked for it.

No one has to know about the chocolate Bon Bons and your rental of Sweet Home Alabama. Do it for you.

You deserve it. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No Drama, No Gossip, No Stress, No Problem

I’ve been purging this year. Purging as much as possible. I moved for the 7th time in four years in the spring [somanylongstories], and that brought even more purging of material things that held meaning at one time, with certain connotations, and it was simply time to be rid of them altogether. My navy blue, velvety sectional couch included. Sad face.

Photos, letters, mementos, and boxes upon boxes of crafting supplies that I splurged on when Pinterest hit the scene in 2010. I was inspired, what can I say. I also donated a few blouses I’ve had since college. Yep, it was time for me to break up my long-term relationship with Old Navy circa 2002, too.

This all falls in line with what I’ve shared about here, I’ve been actively engaged in an internal, spiritual cleanse. Purging old mental and emotional habits like self-doubt and fear, breaking down blockades to a peaceful spirit, and addressing my severe allergy to vulnerability.

Slowly, things are coming together. Newness is emerging – and it’s incredible. 
Journeys to wholeness are rarely easy..... and never short.

Part of this whole process has recently resulted in the ending of some friendships and the purging of what came along with them – drama, gossip, and unnecessary stress. My heart is both sad and relieved to have these changes, honestly. I believe in having the best possible relationships with all people... AND sometimes the best possible status of a relationship is “not close.”

There can be any number of reasons for this and it doesn’t mean one or the other persons involved are bad people. Similar to romantic relationships, sometimes the chemistry between two people just doesn’t work. We want different things and we have different values and expectations.

That’s okay.
Everyone is entitled to be as they are.
But we don’t have to be close to all people as they are if it’s not good for us.

I’m processing through some of that and it still carries a strong energy of awkwardness for me. However, it feels pretty great to have freedom from high-drama, gossip and judgment, unattainable expectations, complaining, codependency, passive-aggressive behavior, and the stress all of that brings. Those aren’t things that I engage in and they don’t work for me in any sort of relationship. That’s my line in the sand.

And to be 100% honest, people have “broken up” with me in several friendships in the past because I behaved in some of those unsavory ways. They had a right to do so. I commend them for their choice and integrity.  

It was through some of those painful friend-break-ups that helped me learn about what I wanted my own boundaries to look like. I don’t do it all perfectly today but I do a pretty kickass job of it.

If we only have one, precious chance to live the life we have, it might as well be the one we want. Purge the clutter... the head chatter... the fears... the things holding you back from really being who you are. Get rid of anything that doesn't work for you. Maybe hold on to your blue sectional couch if you can, though.

Brene Strikes [my heart] Again

Well, this made me cry.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Fun" & "New"

For the six people who follow my blog, you might remember that my word for the year is fun. As cheesy as it may sound, I’ve been too busy having fun to write here. I also adopted a sub-category of fun, which is “new.”

New used to induce a gag reflex. I hated it. It represented lack of control, possibilities and –worst of all- changes. Shutter. No possible way to know outcomes, nothing is for sure, and holy crap where is my mom. Hints of “new” came like the entrance music for the Wicked Witch of the West.

Now? It turns out that I like new. A lot. The things that used to hold me back or cause fear now draw me in. New restaurant? Sign me up. New beverage to try? Sure (although ginger-anything is NOT MY FAVORITE). New friends? I could use more. It likely sounds ridiculous to anyone who is not me, but hey, this is my blog.

Here are some of my 2014 Fun & New lists...

1)    I'm a pro with Madison’s daily IV
I won’t bring it down in my first sentence. My cat was diagnosed with kidney failure earlier this year and this has resulted in the need for me to administer a daily IV drip to keep her hydrated. Stick a needle in my pet? Are you KIDDING ME? What started off as a teary, scary endeavor has turned into a beautiful daily bonding opportunity. It’s just a part of life for us, and we are used to it. Okay, so it’s not so much fun as it is just new. #Iambrave

Not a professional. (@ Womack & Bowman)
2)    I now take aerial classes
Yes. It sounds as awesome as it is. I get up on silks and hang and flip and swirl and everything. (I won't use technical language for common folk... but my split inversions are SOLID. Not pictured.) Not easy, it's a hard workout. I’m pretty badass, but I'm only 1% as badass as my trainer, Rachel. JEEZ.

3)    I stayed in a new hotel & saw Cirque’s “O” show
I prefer to stay in tried and true places when I travel. This month, I changed it up and stayed in a hotel on the Las Vegas strip I have never stayed at. The pools were a spectacle and everything I anticipated. My partner even got a deal with $35 food/beverage credit, which purchased approximately one margarita. Whatever. We would have paid anyway. BUT THEN... I took us to see both of our very first Cirque du Soleil shows, O. Words cannot describe the experience because it was that impressive.

1)    I ate raw fish
I have only started to eat sushi (actuality: cooked fish rolls) in the last two years. I pretended to like it because it is all the rage for people I fancy to have a good palate. Then, I had the Albacore Poke appetizer at Warren’s Blackboard. I’m a believer.

2)    I made something fancy
I found dates at Trader Joe’s and bought them before looking up a recipe. Came home and found one immediately. Made broiled dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds with a honey-balsamic sauce. Recommended.

3)    I tried something green in liquid form
I work in Malibu and I tend to believe we have the best of everything there. So I ordered a kale shake one morning. I thought it would taste bad. It did. I finished it to prove a point to myself.

1)    I am getting published again
I’ll be published with Tiny Buddha soon! The founder is very kind and complimentary. I’ll link to it on here when it comes out.

2)    I am co-founding a company
That sums it up. Co-founding an all-female consultancy for some of the most incredibly talented, boss ladies in Los Angeles. I’m heading up DNA for our consultants and core team development as well as being a featured consultant and trainer. Details to come... launching soon!

And that about wraps my year up to this point. Fun, new, and everything between. The best part is I'm surprising myself nearly every day. Intention to action... I'm loving it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Albert Einstein Can Fix Your Problems

I believe most people spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting conflicts or things they are not totally satisfied with. (That sounds a lot better that saying we worry about a lot – let’s make it sound proactive.) He said, she said, that must mean, I can't believe that...

We can get so caught up in the details of each side of a story, the black and white, the right and wrong, the scorecard, that we miss the most basic of principles, which is to not do anything until I there is clarity. Anxiety and stress tend to run the show, as modern social studies show us. We try to measure things that are not measurable, therefore attempting to force clarity.

A quote that inspires my life on a daily basis is by the crazy-haired, brilliant scientist/philosopher, Albert Einstein. It reads,

“When the solution is simple, god is answering.”

The right answer is the simple one.

We muddy the waters of life with our selfishness and our attempts to control and make something happen or not happen. I'm at fault for this - I often times I believe I am in charge of the results. Our subconscious clings with a death grip to the idea that if we only hope hard enough, try hard enough, and give enough that life will all happen exactly as we desire it to. It’s a lot of work and energy.

Which is why trying, controlling, and forcing is not the simple answer. 

It doesn’t mean the simple answer is the easy or painless one; it is just the right one. It’s simple because it’s the one that resonates with the deepest part of who we are. We intuitively know if something works for us or not, or if we like something/someone or not. That’s the simple answer.

So the next time you’re wondering if you should/shouldn’t date someone, or go to that event function or spend time with that person, take a deep breath and think about good'ol Einstein. He just might help you find what the truest, simplest answer is for you. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

For the Love, Stop Taking ‘No’ Personally

I never knew how much I would grow to appreciate that one, little word that packs such a punch:


No is a complete sentence, as my mentor reminds me. It doesn’t require qualifying language, a predicate or noun to surround it. It’s clear and concise. It explains the most important piece of information needed in any given situation where it is relevant. It’s perfectly complete with just two letters strung together.

No. [Add ‘thank you’ if you feel extra generous.]

I’ve come to the end of my people-pleasing days and let me tell you it’s liberating. Three decades of living to make other people happy (which actually never worked) has gone on long enough.

Here I am stating for you and all of the Universe to hear: I release the need to qualify why I say no. 

It’s no one's business, frankly, and my resources of time and energy are far too precious to spend going around qualifying and explaining the reason behind my no. That, in some cases, would be me hiding and checking the temperature of emotional waters before jumping in. It would be as though I am asking for permission to feel valid in my answer. That behavior is based in people-pleasing because I want to make sure they feel okay about my answer instead of being confident that I'm okay not needing to explain myself. I have my answer and that's enough.

My god, how many hours I have wasted away with worry about what other people think.

I’ve violated my own values, my gut, my heart so many times that I think for a period of time I forgot I had my own will and desires and needs and wants that were important to listen to. Who’s life am I living, though? Mine. What do I want for it? Lots. Making room for what I want for myself necessitates saying no to things that don't contribute to my values or the rhythm of my life.

I know, saying no can be scary. Perhaps people will be mad with you. But what is the worst that can happen?

An individual asked if I would speak at an event that same day. I said no. They accused me of being selfish and uncommitted to the cause for the event and to them personally. What they didn’t know was I was on couch-rest and heavy medication for a back injury from a few days before.

My answer was not personal to that person, it was personal to me. The reason was irrelevant. We tend to take “no” personally yet it is never personal (read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz). Often we have no idea what someone is going through or why something doesn’t work for them when we want it to work for us. The thing is we don’t need to know. It’s not about us. Let it be. Accept it and don’t waste emotional energy on mulling it over. You have much better things to do with your time.

Could I have explained myself to the invitee? Sure. However, explaining myself would have been a way I could provide an excuse. Sometimes saying no without qualifying it and then sitting in discomfort is one of the best ways to grow because it forces us to get comfortable with ourselves.

What I share with my clients is this: “The most important person in any equation is you.” If you’re involved and say yes, make sure it’s something you want to be known by, stand by and give yourself to. If you don't have time, you don't. If you don't have the energy, you don't.  If there is any part of your gut that says, “Mehhhh... eeeehhh...” don’t do it. Just don’t. Sit in the discomfort of taking care of yourself instead of spending energy in places that don't align with you. It will eventually start to feel normal an greater self esteem will emerge.

Here is to many more no's so you can expand your life with other yes's.